Pearson Shares Its Learning Design Principles

In December 2016, Pearson published a set of 45 learning-design principles under a Creative Commons license. A company blog post calls them the “nexus of education research (i.e., products based on research) and product efficacy (i.e., research-based products that evidence impact on outcomes).”

Pearson is an international company that creates educational courseware, publishes textbooks, and sells a variety of technology-based learning services and products. From its place at the center of the US battle over “privatization” of public education, the multibillion-dollar company is not without controversy, particularly for its dominance of the standardized testing market. Pearson designs curriculum, creates learning materials and standardized tests, trains testers, runs tutoring centers and online education programs, and more.

The publication of the learning design principles is, according to EdWeek Market Brief editorial intern Leo Doran, “part of a company-wide push for transparency in evaluating the efficacy of their products.” The company simultaneously released a report on how it uses learning design. Transparency is certainly valuable, as is insight into how Pearson and other instructional designers “make the sausage,” so to speak.

The principles are grouped into six themes:

  • Foundations (eight principles)
  • The nature of knowledge (ten principles)
  • Practices that foster effective learning (eleven principles)
  • Learning together (five principles)
  • Learning environments (seven principles)
  • Moving learning sciences research into the classroom (four principles)

They are presented as “cards,” each filling the front and back of a full sheet of paper. Each includes a description, list of capabilities, sample design implementations, learner impacts, and a “self-assessment instrument.”

It’s not clear how Pearson hopes or anticipates that learning or eLearning professionals will use these principles or “cards.” They are not written in a way that will be easily understood or useful to everyone. For example, one principle under “practices that foster effective learning” is “universal design for learning” (UDL), pictured in the original article.

The description offers a broad definition of what UDL means and why it matters. The learner impacts—behavior and self-regulation—are vague, and the capabilities and sample design implementations listed are somewhat obscure, though perhaps they are meaningful to Pearson insiders. The self-assessment grid, also vague, does provide some insight as to how a designer might apply or implement the principle, with several entries hinting at “provision of multiple options” presumably referring to providing learners with multiple ways to achieve each learning objective.

Similarly, the description for “games and virtual worlds,” under “learning environments,” explains why people use games in learning and references several research studies. But the “capabilities” section says only “Instruction: Active learning experience”—not very meaningful. Nor are the statements on the “self-assessment instrument” particularly helpful.

In short, some of the principles are more accessible than others, and instructional designers might find useful ideas among the sample design implementations suggested. The PDF with the 45 principles also includes a lengthy bibliography, which could be useful to many eLearning professionals. 

The Pearson blog post says that the company has also created design tools and guidance documents. They use the cards to “set a common language and understanding of learning science research” for their product designers and developers. The Pearson announcement hints at additional releases and an “extended dialogue,” which might provide more information on how people, both within Pearson and outside of the company, are using the principles.


Optimize Workforce Performance with Blended Learning

As a former CIO, and as someone who has been in information technology my whole career, I have come to appreciate the importance of having the right people, with the right skills and experience, in the right jobs. Particularly, when it comes to the development of systems or implementation of major programs, it is imperative to have a skilled and experienced leadership team. When I review programs, I always insist on meeting and being briefed by the program manager and his or her senior team—you can tell in an hour review whether the team has the requisite skills to handle the rigors of delivering successfully.

Yet many organizations struggle to find or even develop the skills of their staff. Typically, the answer is to provide training, and many organizations are turning to self-paced e-learning modules as the fastest, most cost-efficient answer. Yet, all too often, and eventually to a leader’s dismay, failures happen due to the lack of skills and experience with key staff. While e-learning can be valuable, it alone will rarely provide the requisite development of needed skills, particularly when individuals need to work in a team environment. To address this issue, organizations need to develop training and developmental approaches that optimize workforce performance through various means that synergistically support each other. Such an approach is the essence of what is called “blended learning.”

What Is Blended Learning?

According to the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, blended learning melds traditional classroom-based learning with virtual and technology-based learning opportunities, giving students some control over the time, place, path, or pace of learning ( The result is an adaptive, personalized learning experience that facilitates maximum understanding of knowledge, and the ability to apply that knowledge to real-world problems.

  • Foundational Knowledge: Essential knowledge and skills can be easily delivered through books, e-learning, Webinars, videos, Websites, blogs, white papers, solution briefs, etc.
  • Instructor-Led Training in the Classroom: Second-tier learning of complex concepts is best delivered in an interactive in-person or virtual classroom environment. Expert instructors provide in-depth training of advanced topics and foster learning through discussion and participation among class members.
  • Hands-On Exercises: Students are encouraged to practice new skills and knowledge in the classroom and via an online sandbox environment, where they’re free to practice and experiment with their new skills when and where they choose, and at their own pace.
  • Activation Training: With expert guidance and hands-on assistance, students apply their newly gained skills to their current work to receive actual project artifacts for their specific program in a “safe” environment such as a Project Acceleration and Implementation Workshop.
  • Mentorship and Coaching: Learning doesn’t stop when formal training is over. Students should leverage resources, such as subject matter experts and advisors, in order to find the best way to apply new skills and knowledge on the job.
  • Optimized Performance: Students apply their newly honed skills and knowledge daily on the job, maximizing performance in their organizations and contributing to an optimized workforce.

The Defining Aspects of Blended Learning

  • Learning must include an element of instructor-led learning, either in a brick-and-mortar or a virtual interactive classroom environment.
  • Technology is introduced to the learning environment in a way that gives students some control of time, place, path, and/or pace of learning.

The Advantages of Blended Learning

  • The learner is in the driver’s seat. When students are given control of some aspects of training, they are free to choose what best suits their needs, which makes for a more effective learning environment.
  • Different learning approaches address different needs. Because blended learning combines varied delivery methods, students are free to learn the way that works for them.
  • Learning is focused on high-order “doing” skills (creating, evaluating, analyzing, and applying) over low-order “thinking” skills (understanding and remembering). Hands-on learning, facilitated through technology, ensures learners can apply their new knowledge to their specific environment.

Transforming Your Training Culture With Blended Learning

Because blended learning combines training from expert instructors with hands-on experience, this learning method is a must for adult professionals looking to learn and apply new skills back at the office. It is an effective way to maximize learning so that new knowledge and skills can easily be applied to real-world problems on the job. For companies that implement this training method in their organization, this translates into:

  • Engaged team members who are ready to apply new skills on the job.
  • Heightened institutional knowledge that can be shared throughout the workforce.
  • Increased ROI on each training dollar spent.
  • Confident employees who are invested in the company’s goals—because the company made the effort to invest in their careers and personal growth.

A Case Study

Recently, a major health-care provider turned to my organization to support it in developing a blended learning approach for its software development teams. New team members were directed to use e-learning modules to develop skills on programming languages, yet these team members struggled with applying these skills in a real-world development environment.

By augmenting their learning with instructor-led, exercise-based training, together with the offer of after-training instructor coaching, new developers are able to rapidly learn and be productive for this health-care provider. A small additional investment in the individual is paying significant dividends to the firm in both increased productivity and employee morale.

Here is some of the feedback we received:

“Thank you for giving us this training. The instructor was great and made it easy to apply our new skills.”

“It was great gaining practical experience on how to use what we’ve learned directly in our work.”

“The hands-on exercises were very effective. I liked how some exercises were completed as an individual and some in groups.”

“The material is great. I learned a lot of new terms and processes.”

In almost all learning, the ability to interact and problem solve with a subject matter expert can be invaluable—there is no substitute for that one-on-one interaction to help transfer knowledge and experience.

4 Effective Tactics to Maximize Your Return on Training

  1. Request value-add from your training partner to help the knowledge and skills transfer beyond one course or event, such as coaching or an acceleration workshop.
  2. Secure stakeholder commitment if process or culture change is required to make the training stick.
  3. Centralize purchasing efforts between departments or agencies for better cost-efficient solutions.
  4. Consider combining internal and external efforts to maximize performance using blended learning solutions.


AUTHOR: Richard A. Spires is currently CEO at Learning Tree International, and former CIO at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service. Connect with him: @raspires or via LinkedIn





Are Your Employees Really Learning?

“Instead of relying on dated training techniques and wondering about the productivity and knowledge of employees, businesses need to restructure training programs to effectively educate their staff. This will not only encourage employees to stay and grow with their companies, but also promote a sense of brand loyalty and drive greater retention and profitability.”

US companies invest a significant amount of money, time, and resources into training their employees. In fact, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost US businesses up to $550 billion annually in lost productivity. A new approach to learning and training should be at the top of employers’ to-do list. Yet many companies are still using stale, one-size-fits-all materials that do little to inspire retention or performance.

It’s often hard to know how much of that information is actually being effectively retained and put to use. You may have insight into training compliance, but there are few means of measuring absorption. And according to a host of new data, if companies want to identify the source of profitability bleeding, it lies with lack of retention.

Cutting through the clutter

Training methods need to evolve with the times in order to keep personnel productive, engaged, confident in their knowledge, and adamant in their pursuit of learning. Businesses must understand that with their employees, they’re up against fragmented content consumption, increasing distractions, and greater control by the consumer. Training and learning materials are struggling to cut through the clutter, and employees ultimately are disregarding them.

This results in a disengaged and disenchanted workforce, decreased loyalty, lost productivity, and, in the end, lower profitability.

By their nature, trends like these should be encouraging employers to rethink training for new hires; yet Rapt Media’s recent survey data on the American workplace shows that employees are disengaged and disappointed with training techniques used by their employers and are not actually absorbing the information required to perform.

The survey shows that the majority of employees (65 percent) feel their company could have done a better job of onboarding them. In fact, three out of four employees (74 percent) said they’d forgotten some or all of the last mandatory training they attended, while more than half (57 percent) completed the training only because they had to.

This data highlights the difference between compliance and absorption in the workplace and, when deconstructed, pinpoints effectiveness, growth, and engagement of employees as a key indicator of success. It is increasingly difficult to present information in ways that capture attention and stimulate learning, but investing in effective training has proved to be essential to success.

Driving more effective training

So what does this mean for businesses? In order to create sustainability, profitability, and a productive environment, leaders need to reevaluate their training practices and utilize new research to build communication between employers and employees.

According to Rapt Media’s survey, the vast majority of employees (82 percent) learn better from visual content like video than from static content like PDFs and other documents. More than half (60 percent) are bored by their company’s internal communications.

Companies have to: move beyond traditional, one-way training techniques that seem to inhibit absorption of information; reimagine internal content; and turn to new technology tools and platforms that will engage workers in a personalized way, including interactive content that promotes two-way engagement with training and learning materials. With only 32 percent of employees saying they are engaged in their workplace, it is apparent that companies need to take action.

The good news? Your employees can help. Research has found that 73 percent of employees have suggestions for their internal communicators and one in four would like more humor and entertainment, highlighting a greater need for companies to seek out feedback from their workforce and actively take notice of what their employees say will drive increased engagement.

Reimagining content

Meeting this need for greater engagement also requires a complete reimagination of content and an effort to invest in tools that are driven by personalization and two-way interaction. An investment in these kinds of tools will also offer companies valuable understanding of content engagement and behavioral insights.

If a company is unable or unwilling to change to improve outdated techniques, it’s not a question of whether its employees will leave, but when. And in the rare cases that they do stay, employees will be much less productive than they could be.

Instead of relying on dated training techniques and wondering about the productivity and knowledge of employees, businesses need to restructure training programs to effectively educate their staff. This will not only encourage employees to stay and grow with their companies, but also promote a sense of brand loyalty and drive greater retention and profitability.



5 Trends for the Future of Learning and Development

In today’s world, organizations that fail to adjust their learning management practices and solutions often struggle with organizational growth or productivity. As a result, leading companies are abandoning traditional methods of learning in favor of more effective solutions—often involving technology innovation—that engage talent and improve performance. This report highlights key trends affecting the future of enterprise learning and recommendations for selecting the right provider.

Key Findings

  • One-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development.
  • 41 percent of companies describe their culture as “Controlling.”
  • Only 10 percent of companies are leveraging mobile learning solutions.
  • 59 percent of companies are leveraging social learning activities.
  • Source: Brandon Hall Group 2014 Learning and Development Benchmarking Study (n=569)
  • Prioritizing the Individual

Organizations are facing several critical pressures, including a short supply of leaders, the need to develop and engage employees, and issues with turnover. Finding and keeping talent is no longer an HR challenge but a strategic business priority. Yet, most companies are unable to build lasting relationships with their employees in an effort to overcome these challenges. Instead of empowering employees with the tools they need to succeed, many companies feel threatened by their workforce and fearful of change. In fact, when asked to define their company culture, 41 percent of companies described it as “controlling,” or a highly structured and informal place to work with little collaboration. With the emergence of a younger generation and the rise of the independent worker, companies must rethink their approach to talent and begin to prioritize the “individual.” They must provide a new mechanism for learning—one that can adapt to the needs of a changing workforce and align closely with organizational objectives.

For many companies, an updated learning and development process is long overdue. Brandon Hall Group’s 2014 Learning and Development Benchmarking Study shows that more than 50 percent of companies have revisited their learning strategy less than two times over the last five years. It may seem surprising (considering the state of the global economy over the last few years), but learning has remained, for the most part, stagnant. The good news is that one-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development over the next 12 months. With nearly 50 percent of these companies currently spending $100 per learner per year, companies will need to become more strategic about their learning programs and technology enablers. Brandon Hall Group research indicates that the top areas of learning investment include internal L&D staff and external consultants. Although having the right resources and expertise is critical, companies may want to consider the role technology can play in transforming their learning functions.

Trends and Recommendations

Although learning is one of the most mature areas of talent management, it is also one of the most innovative. With recent technology advancements and the rapid adoption of social collaboration, learning and development has come a long way. Yet making a decision to improve a learning management program and invest in a learning management solution is often a daunting challenge. Five key trends and best practices that companies should consider include the use of mobile technology, adoption of social learning tools, alignment with corporate objectives, use of adaptive learning principles, and the ability to measure effectiveness.

Going Mobile. Mobile has transformed the way companies work, interact, and collaborate. With global penetration rates skyrocketing, organizations that are not considering mobile in all areas of HCM will have a difficult time competing for talent. Despite this reality, companies are still slow to embrace mobile learning solutions. Only 10 percent of companies are using mobile Web-based learning solutions. Some 8 percent are using mobile learning apps, 5 percent mobile performance Web-based sites, and 4 percent are using mobile performance apps Most companies recognize that mobile learning solutions can improve adoption, expand global reach, and engage users better, but do not understand how to execute a mobile strategy. Additionally, some organizations find it challenging to determine what options are available and which providers to consider. Regardless of the barriers they are facing, organizations looking to improve their learning functions will need to make mobile part of the equation and determine what requirements they have in order to select a technology partner.

Understanding Social. Companies are quickly embracing social media tools, as well as investing in social collaboration tools to better engage employees and foster a learning culture. Although social has become mainstream, companies still lack the knowledge and insight around how to use these tools for learning and development. Of the 59 percent of companies using social for their learning strategies, only 24 percent say they are effective. One reason is that companies are limited in the social tools they are using. Companies are using document sharing, discussion forms, and blogs, but they aren’t generally using video or micro-blogs—which our research shows are more effective—to improve their learning functions. Companies must educate themselves on the value of social learning and invest in providers that offer solutions that drive business outcomes.

Considering Adaptive Learning. Adaptive learning is a methodology that breaks traditional models and allows employees to learn at their own pace. It has gained popularity with educational institutions, referred to as “adaptive teaching,” where a teacher will gather information on individual students to learn what they need to do to improve their learning. In the workforce, adaptive learning is conducted similarly. Employees can be monitored individually and in real time to determine what learning approach will best suit their needs. It has advantages for younger generations entering the workforce that have expectations around flexibility and interaction. Adaptive learning can be effective at improving efficiency, as well as employee engagement and retention since it allows employees to build confidence and overall expertise. Companies may want to consider breaking traditional learning methods by introducing aspects of adaptive learning.

Aligning with Business Objectives. The learning of the past operated in silos where learning professionals had little interaction or input from other areas of the business. The learning of the future must be closely aligned to overall corporate strategies in order for companies to achieve results. Any program or technology investment should involve input from business leaders to ensure that learning is driving retention, engagement, and performance. For those companies that did align learning and business priorities (48 percent), more than 70 percent were able to improve company revenue.

Measuring Effectiveness. To determine if the learning strategy in place is driving business outcomes, companies must find a way to consistently measure its effectiveness. Companies should determine metrics in advance and include both business metrics and learning/HR metrics. Currently, most companies are considering team encouragement, employee engagement, and employee satisfaction over more concrete business metrics such as retention, turnover, and revenue per full-time employee.

Key Takeaways

Most companies must adapt their learning strategies to meet the demands of today’s workforce. Traditional models of learning do little to bridge the gap between employer and employee or to improve engagement and performance. By aligning learning strategies with corporate objectives and leveraging innovative technology, organizations will be able to significantly improve their learning functions. Key takeaways:

Select the right provider. In the past, organizations had limited technology choices for learning and development, but today there are new solutions emerging every month. Organizations should consider providers with innovative capabilities such as mobile and social and also understand the importance of measuring the effectiveness of learning activities.

Collaborate with the business. Learning professionals must work closely with business leaders to design the learning program and also to gather input on the right technology providers. With executive support, organizations can help shift their approach to learning and create new vehicles for enabling individual success.

Put the individual first. Companies must shift the way they view employees and consider focusing on the individual and his or her unique learning needs. For some companies, this strategy may include aspects of adaptive learning; for other companies, it could mean a different communication strategy.


AUTHOR:  David Wentworth and Mollie Lombardi are analysts for Brandon Hall Group, an independent HCM research and advisory services firm that provides insights on Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources. Wentworth is senior learning analyst and Lombardi is VP of the Workforce Management Practice.


5 Tech Leaders Step Up Learning and Development to Engage Employees

Companies with high employee engagement reap a number of valuable benefits: Productivity and innovation flourish, employee retention and loyalty grow. One key way companies can drive employee engagement and differentiate themselves in a competitive job market is through their learning and development (L&D) programs.

Millennials now comprise the largest segment of the American workforce, and a recent study shows that they rank training and development as the No. 1 most valuable benefit employers can provide. Leading tech companies today understand this and are creating new learning initiatives to drive employee engagement and job satisfaction. Pandora calls these programs their “B2E” (Business to Employees) initiatives. Salesforce, the thought leader behind Customer Success, has named them “Employee Success”

Here’s how five big names in tech use innovative learning and development programs to make sure employees are engaged at work, and how startups and mid-sized companies can borrow from their playbooks.

SALESFORCE: Innovative, Customized Learning Journeys

Salesforce customizes L&D to the individual employee to increase productivity and engagement. Dan Darcy, SVP, Productivity, runs enablement at Salesforce and describes his job as Customer Success for internal employees.

For Salesforce, Customer Success is all about putting customers first. It means actively working to increase customer happiness, engagement, productivity, retention, and ultimate success. For Darcy and his team, Employee Success comes first.

“My goal is to establish the best sales training program in the industry, and then roll out this framework for training across all Salesforce departments,” Darcy says enthusiastically. Darcy’s team polled employees and discovered that Salesforce employees wanted personalized learning opportunities they could do at their own pace.

To deliver, Darcy’s team is adapting Salesforce’s homegrown Trailhead interactive customer learning platform for in-house employee training. Sales account executives still start their careers with face-to-face Salesforce Academy training at headquarters. Trailhead builds off this foundation by flipping the classroom model. Employees and managers design one-on-one learning journeys to meet each individual employee’s unique personal development needs and goals. With Trailhead, Salesforce is leveraging new training technology to increase both Customer Success and Employee Success.

YELP: Retaining Young Talent Through Learning & Development

James Balagot, head of Learning & Development at Yelp, uses L&D to increase engagement and retention. Each year, Yelp hires and trains hundreds of young account executives, who quickly are pursued by other companies. As a former Yelp account executive himself, Balagot understands that providing young professionals with valuable learning programs, a positive culture, and meaningful advancement opportunities is the best defense against attrition.

Yelp’s strong commitment to promoting from within is the foundation for the company’s L&D efforts. To keep engagement and retention high, Yelp executives actively mentor young employees and tell managers that employee development is their key priority. Balagot surveys employees regularly to assess their job satisfaction and engagement. Employee participation in L&D programming is optional, but the message is clear: Yelp wants employees to succeed and provides daily opportunities for learning. At Yelp, every day can be a school day so employees can continually grow and advance their careers.

PANDORA: A Clear Focus on Manager Training

Pandora is another company that recognizes mentorship and manager-employee relationships are key to employee job satisfaction. “The No. 1 reason employees leave is because of poor relationships with their managers,” states Matt Morgan, Pandora’s VP, Employee Experience and Development. His team carefully tracks two key employee engagement survey metrics to measure the strength of employee-manager relationships:

  • My manager really cares about me as a person
  • I would recommend my manager to others
  • Teaching new managers to coach, support, and manage their people effectively is Pandora’s primary L&D goal.

Morgan’s team creates all its own B2E content and training tools for new managers in-house to reflect Pandora’s values and culture. While the courses are required, Pandora makes all its manager training available online and on-demand, and makes sure each session takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Pandora successfully focuses its L&D initiatives on manager training to increase employee engagement and retention.

ADOBE: Online Leadership Training Drives Global Productivity

Adobe’s uses L&D to develop leaders. “At Adobe, when we talk about leadership, it’s leadership at all levels, from our newest college grads to our senior leadership,” says Angela Szymusiak, senior Talent Development partner. Three years ago, Adobe’s senior executive team identified five key leadership capabilities to cultivate in all employees:

  • Lead with Emotional Intelligence
  • Identify and hire top talent
  • Scale the business and drive growth
  • Innovate and drive change
  • Role-model the Adobe Check-in approach by delivering meaningful, timely feedback

Adobe’s Global Talent Development team designed Adobe’s innovative Leading@Adobe curriculum to accomplish these goals across Adobe’s vast organization of 14,000-plus employees, in 40 countries and 70 locations.

Because of Adobe’s size, the Global Talent Development team relied on technology, Adobe’s Web conferencing platform, Adobe Connect, and on-demand resources to deliver scalable leadership programming. The company now offers a curated on-demand suite of leadership development e-learning tools globally. Moreover, Adobe gets the content right—its 60-minute virtual Adobe Connect labs consistently receive net promoter scores above 90 percent (e.g., I would recommend this experience to my colleague).

Adobe also has reimagined its performance management model. It has replaced its annual performance review process with a frequent feedback loop approach called Check-In. Check-Ins have been embraced throughout the company and are credited with improving communications, employee satisfaction and productivity.

FACEBOOK: Culture Is the Key for a Rapidly Expanding Workforce

“Facebook’s key Learning & Development objectives are to promote respect and foster a culture of continual learning,” says Mike Welsh, Learning & Development partner and People engineer at Facebook. The company’s approach to L&D was designed to appeal to its talented Millennial workers who are hungry for autonomy, feedback, learning, and advancement. Facebook employees want personalized experiences, so the company offers many avenues for individual learning through on-demand classes and career flexibility. At Facebook, most of the learning happens organically within functional departments and is peer-to-peer and employee driven.

Facebook’s L&D team is most known for its innovative Manager, Leadership, and Positive Culture development programs. For example, Facebook’s Engage Coaching Program provides new managers with one-on-one sessions with an executive coach to help them develop effective people management skills.

Facebook’s FLiP (Facebook Leadership in Practice) program also receives rave reviews. The FLiP program goes deep into leadership best practices, case studies, teambuilding, and coaching circle exercises, where rising leaders receive feedback and coaching from their peers and Facebook executive team members.

Finally, Facebook’s nationally recognized Managing Unconscious Bias program trains employees to acknowledge bias in the workplace and build productive working relationships with co-workers. Facebook successfully uses L&D to create a culture that puts people first, and fosters employee engagement, collaborative relationships, and continual learning.

COINBASE: A Forward Thinking Startup

Some believe that L&D is a perk only big companies can offer. Three-year-old Coinbase, creator of the first bitcoin wallet, is proving that theory wrong.

Coinbase, a Series C company with just over 100 employees, is already using L&D to ensure high employee engagement. According to Nathalie McGrath, director of People, Coinbase has created meaningful L&D offerings without a big budget and proprietary programs. To date, Coinbase has adopted Facebook’s coaching circles model, implemented Code School on Fridays, and is exploring partnerships with Udemy to offer employees a variety of on-demand courses. Coinbase’s goal is to empower employees and promote employee learning and continual personal development even when the company is in startup mode.

Five Affordable Ways to Launch L&D Initiatives

While large tech companies may have the money to invest in best-in-class, proprietary L&D programs, many of their best practices don’t require significant resources and budget. Here are five tips companies of any size can implement quickly to bring L&D to their organizations without breaking the bank.

  • Promote in-house mentorship and coaching. Get informal mentorship meet- ups, coaching circles, and peer-to-peer learning off the ground.
  • Make online education an employee benefit. Edtech companies such as Udemy, Udacity,, and Coursera all offer a variety of affordable, turnkey B2B subscriptions for employee online learning.
  • Regularly track employee engagement and job satisfaction. Measure results and solicit feedback. Design and test new L&D initiatives. Strive to constantly improve these metrics.
  • Train new managers to lead, manage, and give frequent feedback. Employees are more engaged and productive when their bosses are good people managers.
  • Treat employees like customers. Make employee engagement, success, and advancement a key business priority. Leverage L&D programs to demonstrate your company’s commitment to its employees.

Embrace L&D to Drive Engagement, Retention, and Productivity

“Employee engagement is the one key metric business leaders can influence quickly to improve business productivity,” stated Jack Welch early this year. Salesforce, Pandora, Yelp, Adobe, Facebook, and Coinbase all have demonstrated how learning and development programs can be used to increase employee engagement. True star employee performers care far more about learning and personal development than free lunches, gym discounts, and ping-pong. Earn their loyalty and increase their productivity and job satisfaction by bringing meaningful learning and development opportunities to your organization.

AUTHOR: Ellen Wilson is a product marketing consultant who works with tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is passionate about learning and development and helping people advance in their careers.


‘Tis the Season: Use “Guerrilla-Style” eLearning to Train Holiday Hires

Holiday season magnifies the challenges of onboarding new employees. Businesses face increased pressure from an influx of customers, enormous volumes of orders or deliveries, or simply juggling regular workloads when many regular employees are away. Getting seasonal hires up to speed, fast, can help. Doug Stephen, senior vice president of the learning division at CGS, in New Brunswick, Canada, shared some best practices for creating what he called “guerrilla-style learning”—cost-effective, mobile-friendly eLearning.

Minimize, then contain, training

The best thing a company can do, according to Stephen, is no training—by rehiring from previous years. “If you can retain even a small amount of those that have been successful the year before, you’re going to maintain or increase customer service, the cost is going to be less, and you’re going to have more stability in the workforce.”

Of course, it’s unlikely that a company can retain a full complement of seasonal hires from year to year. Conceding the necessity of training some new hires, Stephen emphasizes the key to efficient training of people who will be around for only a couple of months: planning. “It’s best to contain the training,” he said. “And once you contain the training, to simplify it.” Planning allows a company—of any size—to prioritize and train only essential skills.

Turn top-performing employees into video stars

Stephen’s solution enlists valued permanent employees—and everyone benefits. “Take a look at your top regular performers that are doing what the seasonal people will be doing. Find out from them what are the ‘gotchas’ in the work that need to be addressed. Because you can’t teach seasonal employees everything,” he said.

Once crucial skills and topics are identified, those top performers “teach” the new hires—informally. “We decide what is important before we do this kind of ‘guerrilla-type learning,’” Stephen said. “We use mobile devices, and we create little tiny vignettes, under two minutes. We can either have [the selected employees] do a selfie and explain, or they can have a manager film them while they’re talking about it.”

The resulting short videos become tips and training for new seasonal hires—“the mechanisms and the methods to find out what they need to know to be able to do the job best.” As an example, Stephen described working with a home goods store, a chain with about $800 million in annual sales. Employees recorded vignettes on topics like how to properly fold a small rug for a floor display, after-hours procedures for ensuring that the stores were pristine and organized for opening, and the correct way to process customer returns.

“We take our best person or best people to explain the key to being successful,” Stephen said. “We take that information and post it on a YouTube channel.” The vignettes, tagged and categorized, are available on YouTube where new hires can search by scenario, task, and job role.

“There is still that human interaction, but we extend it out into the digital space so that people can learn it,” Stephen said. This solution “proves to be very cost-effective, and you can move very quickly as well. You don’t have to be able to set up plans to put it into the LMS and SCORM it. You just create a YouTube channel and put it up there. And it’s really effective.”

It’s a low-cost solution that any company can implement easily. “This can be a poor man’s option or a rich man’s option that can get the same results,” Stephen said.

It’s also scalable. “Name me a small company that doesn’t have an iPhone,” Stephen said. Any company can do this; the key is planning. “The issue is, even small companies need to take the time to prepare” and focus only on the most essential tasks and skills. And keep it short. “If it’s more than two minutes, we lose them.”

Engaging top-performing permanent employees has an additional bonus: “People love that. People want to be recognized as someone who is valuable to the organization. What better way to do that than to go home to your family and say, ‘The manager asked me to help the new people. And oh, by the way, let’s go to YouTube and take a look at what I’m doing,’” Stephen said. “You’re bringing in valued regular employees and really giving them kudos and something to be proud of; they’ve been selected to impart their skills to others. It’s very empowering within an organization.”

Employees or contractors?

Some seasonal or temporary hires are employees; others may be freelancers or contractors. The difference is legally significant; when providing training, employers must be careful not to treat contractors or freelancers like employees. In some locales, requiring or even providing comprehensive training, or requiring employees to perform specific tasks in defined ways, can cross that line.

For this reason, Stephen advises posting the videos to a public YouTube channel. “We can create a private area and we can provide user names and passwords to contractors if we wish,” he said. But “if you want to make it public, the advantage to that is it could help you if you bring in a person as a contractor.”

With a public YouTube channel, the vignettes become “tips that anyone in the world can view,” and contractors can access them using their own devices, on their own time. That can help establish that those individuals are not employees.

Look at new sources of seasonal workers

Cast a wide net when looking for those seasonal hires, Stephen advises. “We all have a tendency to look to students, to try to bring them in. Expand it, and look at some fantastic people who might be retirees who would also be interested—and you might have more stability there as well,” Stephen said, since more of the retirees might return year after year. “There’s a pool [of people] that are willing and just as able to do that type of seasonal work.”

Or consider staffing through an agency: A staffing agency can take on some of the training burden, screening temporary hires for needed skills and providing needed eLearning and training. “I have found that a staffing agency can be very effective in terms of pre-screening the candidates, administering safety training and assessment tests, etc.,” said Melanie Kim, a staffing consultant at AppleOne in California. Some agencies handle payroll as well. “There is, of course, a higher cost associated with temporary services versus finding the employees on their own. However, many companies find the time they save on qualifying and onboarding candidates is worth the additional cost,” Kim said.

Remember: It’s a two-way street

Posting short tips or training to YouTube works for all hires: seasonal employees or contractors; students or retirees. “Everyone goes to YouTube, believe it or not,” Stephen said. “If not, you can show them. The younger people just go there first. The others might say, ‘Where’s the booklet?’ But once you show them, and they see a real example instead of reading it, everybody embraces it. It’s a video world now; it’s all video.”

And once they’re on board, keep new seasonal hires engaged: Ask for feedback and show appreciation. If the new hires feel welcomed and as if they are a part of a bigger effort, they’ll engage more with both the training and the work. Once the season ends, Stephen advises investing a small amount of effort to stay connected using a Facebook page or other social media. When the next hiring season rolls around, reach out to previous hires and consider using incentives to get top performers to come back, Stephen suggests. That will take you full circle, back to his first suggestion: Minimize and contain training!



The Cheapest Way to Fill the Cybersecurity Workforce Gap

For the last few years, a growing shortage of cybersecurity professionals has caused IT executives around the globe to become desperate for skilled IT workers in this field.

The 2014 Cisco Annual Security Report estimated the need for 500,000 to 1 million qualified security workers internationally, projecting this number to rise to 1.5 million by 2019.


Experts cite a few different reasons for this shortage, the most notable of those being a severe lack of experienced workers in a relatively “young” industry.

In the past, IT departments relied on contract workers to solve security issues, but only during a crisis. However, due to an influx of cyber-attacks made on myriad industries, companies are looking to invest in permanent security workers who will focus not only on the prevention of data hacking, but also on early detection and response.

But will employers be able to fill this workforce shortage?

It’s difficult to say. With an increase in demand comes an inflation of salaries for currently skilled cybersecurity professionals. So much so, that it’s becoming difficult for most companies to afford them. James Arlen of Leviathan Security Group tells ZDNet, “The reality of this is that in order to acquire new talent, companies are forced to go hunting and must be ready to put down the biggest pile of compensation.”

Training Is the Answer

So how do companies cope with this?

Arlen reveals that “while we need to ensure a trained and ready replacement workforce is prepared to supplement and succeed the current generation of security professionals, we should invest heavily in training those who already occupy the positions that protect our companies today.”

It seems like the cheaper option for businesses to provide training to existing IT employees, who already have the technical background and who are familiar with company practices. By increasing their skill sets and taking on more responsibility, IT employees have the opportunity to benefit from the increased wage demand for cybersecurity professionals.

In addition, this cross-training of IT workers seems to have worked before. According to CSO, a Canada-based information security company called Herjavec Group has been successful in converting existing technical employees into cybersecurity professionals. After acquiring a few IT services companies, Herjavec trained those new employees to become “expert cybersecurity advisers, consultants, incident responders, engineers, and security operations center staff.”

Therefore, by following Herjavec’s lead, companies have the chance to solve their cybersecurity issues through the investment of training.

As cybersecurity breaches continue to devastate businesses, it’s important to be prepared.


AUTHOR:  Meredith Quinn is a marketing copywriter and content developer for, an online training provider of on-demand, multi-industry career training and certifications. Quinn composes weekly blogs that focus on the IT industry, with an emphasis on professional development. For more information, contact

Reprinted from TRAINING magazine


3 Steps for Training Tech-Inexperienced Employees

Companies know that the quicker they can get their teams to adopt new technology, the faster they’ll be able to reap the benefits of increased productivity, better customer service, higher sales, and smarter decision-making.

But getting a whole team on board with new tools isn’t always easy. Invariably, some will welcome change, but there also will be those who prefer to stick to the old way of doing things.

Then there are those whose experience with technology is limited. For these employees, tailored and effective training becomes key. Studies show that good training can increase employee productivity and retention, and when you’re onboarding employees whose knowledge of tech is scant, it’s essential they learn without fear and intimidation. By showing them how new technology will make their work lives easier and more productive, they will learn to understand its value and adapt quicker.

We have found that by making these three steps part of your training, you can get the technology-uninitiated on board with relative ease.

1.Take a Multi-Faceted Approach. Many companies take a one-size-fits-all approach to training. But just as every person learns differently, no one person receives, retains, and embraces training in the same fashion. There will be those who thrive in a creative environment, while others who prefer structure and process.

There will be the “Show Me” learners, who learn best through visual demonstration; “Do It With Me” learners, who need a face-to-face opportunity to see the training materials in person, and the ability to ask questions of an in-person facilitator; and the “Let Me Do It” learners who thrive on exploring the new technology by themselves at a comfortable pace. Obviously, holding three different training sessions is costly and time-consuming, so the best training is done with a blended learning approach.

For example, we start with a walk-through of the technology, with a visual of the system shown on a big screen for the “show me” learners. Then we walk them through the process on their own devices for the “do it with me” learners. Finally, for the “let me do it” learners, we provide time to explore the new system on their own.

2. Make It Applicable. Whether you’re teaching employees to create a basic Excel spreadsheet or to use a sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) system, your employees need to have a stake in the game. They need to know how the new technology will benefit them personally. There are many ways to achieve this. Start by using authentic true-to-life systems, with actual data applying directly to their role within the company.

Incorporate authentic scenarios and demonstrate how the technology applies to each scenario. Training employees based on a “day in their life” will center any learning development around actual practical usage of the technology.

Personalizing the software will provide your tech-inexperienced employees a sense of comfort in adapting to change. For example, if they are department store customer service reps training to use a point-of-sale (POS) system, include inventory available in-store and devise possible authentic scenarios the employee might encounter when using the software. Similarly, if they are new sales reps training on routing software, include actual streets and places of business in the area where they work.

We use what we call “training in production,” which means during training, employees have access to the exact system they will use after training. Once they complete the learning initiatives, we reset their production environment so they can maintain everything that is 100 percent unique to them. Not only does this help authenticate the training experience, but once they begin using the software on the job, they have all of their data in a recognizable format.

3. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Employees starting on a new technology may face a lot of uncertainty. If the training seems highly complex and deeply unfamiliar, their ability to adapt can shut down. This is especially true for those uncomfortable using new technology to begin with.

So simplify the process. Remember, the technology language the experts in the field use will seem like a foreign language to newcomers. So once you have written your training lessons and developed your documents, re-read them. Ask a non-tech employee to review and point out words or phrases that are complicated and not understandable by the everyday user. Then go back and rewrite.

Then, build off what your employees already know. We call this “scaffolding”—taking prior knowledge and building on its foundation. Start with something familiar—such as how to use a smartphone—and demonstrate how those basic concepts apply to the new tech. Once they see similarities they are comfortable with, it is much easier to introduce the next layer of knowledge.

Finally, once the training is over, it’s important to keep open the lines of communication and continually review and revisit your training plan, especially if you find some employees are still struggling with some concepts. Employees need to feel confident in their ability to succeed. Spending time on proper training and follow-up reinforces this principal, and ultimately lowers a company’s path to value.


AUTHOR:  Thomas Buckley is the CEO of StayInFront, a leading global provider of mobile, cloud-based field force effectiveness and customer relationship management solutions for consumer goods and life sciences organizations.


Reprinted from Training

How Does Your Salary Stack Up?

Average training salaries grew nearly 3 percent to $83,494 in 2014-2015, according to Training magazine’s Annual Salary Survey of 1,280 readers.

The average increase in salary in the last 12 months (not including a promotion or change of employer) also remained at just under 3 percent, the same as in 2013-2014. The majority (48 percent) of respondents typically work between 40 and 44 hours per week. Some 44 percent of respondents said their salary was low relative to their responsibilities, while another 46 percent said it was equitable. Only 9 percent (down 1 percent from last year) believe they are well paid relative to their responsibilities. Some 55 percent of respondents said they received a bonus in 2014, and 59 percent are eligible for one this year (both answers are the same as last year). The average cash bonus was $10,603, up from $9,866 the year before.

Only 2 percent said employers asked them to take a pay cut in 2014-2015, down from 3 percent previously. Some 39 percent of respondents said their organization cut budgets in the last 12 months, 6 percent less than in 2013-2014. Travel was trimmed by 36 percent of respondents, down from 41 percent. Some 12 percent froze salaries vs. 14 percent in 2013-2014. And 6.5 percent eliminated bonuses compared with nearly 8 percent the year before. Employee layoffs decreased a bit, from 24 percent to 21 percent.

Most training professionals continue to enjoy what they do for a living, with nearly 73 percent saying they wouldn’t choose another career if they could do it all over again. Of those who preferred other careers, answers ranged from cybersecurity expert, Human Resources director, and petroleum engineer to actor/performer, cosmonaut, and fiction writer.

Click here to read the full article.

Reprinted from TRAINING Magazine

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